They just kept coming -- thousands of runners in the Fairfield half marathon last Sunday -- and they were in all shapes and sizes. Some were skinny, beefy, tall and short. Some looked like they were in great pain -- that would have been me.
Others huffed, puffed and groaned. Many of their external body parts jiggled. My friend Millicent and I had a few choice words to say about that. And I had visions of my "kishkas"(insides) coming loose every time I heard the runners' shoes hit the pavement. I still refer to my insides as my "kishkas."
Many appeared to be in a runners' trance, oblivious to anyone or anything outside their own space. Others seemed so intense that the strain on their facial muscles was painful to see. And, yes, there were a few who were walking or even staggering a little.
How did I get to have such a great front-row seat to this annual early-summer event? Purely by accident.
Millicent is a fellow writer, and we were on our way to a writers-group meeting in Westport. I was innocently following my usual route south on Hill Farm Road. I had planned to turn right on Bronson Road, then follow Hulls Farm Road and Long Lots Road south into Westport.
Wrong! Not this past Sunday.
When I reached the stop sign at Bronson Road, a seemingly endless river of runners was flowing past us, headed down Bronson toward Southport. We had a front-row seat.
"Well," Millicent said, chuckling, "there's next week's column right in front of you. Look at all these runners. It's like a people-watcher's dream."
"I'm sorry," I groaned. "It just never occurred to me that we'd be stopped by a marathon, but here we are."
So I decided to take Millicent's advice and live in the moment at Hill Farm and Bronson roads. To our left was a small group of happy race supporters, wearing the same monogrammed T-shirts and cheering for someone named Ryan. We never saw Ryan, but we assumed he or she must already have run by. The group went wild several other times while we were there, probably when Ryan's friends passed.
As more runners jogged by, I started giving them a thumbs up. A few acknowledged my gesture while other runners were too wrapped up in remaining on track or in rhythm to even look up. "I've never seen this many runners before," Millicent said.
"Then you haven't seen the New York or Boston Marathons," I said. "This is a small race, compared to those ."
Still, 4,500 runners in Fairfield is nothing to sneeze at.
We could literally see the beads of sweat pouring down many runners' brows. And the array of colors of tee shirts and shorts made the blur of runners look like an unfurled banner.
I remembered our older daughter had run this race with and sometimes without her then-husband. In those days, my wife and I and at least one of our dogs were always there to cheer the kids on.
I was definitely relieved last Sunday that the dogs weren't with us. For no reason, they go berserk around any runners. It would have been a nightmare.
After we'd been parked for about a half hour and the runners just kept whizzing by, several less patient drivers decided to find a gap between groups of runners and turn right on Bronson Road.
We waited another 15 minutes before attempting the same thing. But when we turned, we made a harsh discovery. The police were at the corner of Bronson and Hulls Farm, and traffic was stopped for runners to pour from Hulls Farm onto Bronson.
"Oh my gosh," I said to Millicent, "now where?"
There was no turning back. I was in the intersection blocking traffic, and from the corner of my eye I could see runner coming at my car. So I politely pulled to the right of the police officer and kept going up Bronson.
I took the next left, the bumped into Redding Road. I took a right on it and drove away from the runners, hoping we wouldn't get lost on the back roads.
I have no idea who won the half marathon and don't much care. But, despite being an involuntary spectator, I developed a new-found respect for those thousands of men and women who had the courage, no matter what kind of shape they were in, to get out there early on a Sunday morning and complete this half marathon. Kudos to all the runners.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: email@example.com.